The story of any one of us is in some measure the story of us all. ~Frederick Buechner

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I discovered I was pregnant.

And I wasn’t sure of who the father was.

When I told my fiancée, he accused me of adultery. The news did not go down well.

At the market I caught people staring at me. I couldn’t stand the looks, the way my friends suddenly acted busy, the gossip behind my back.

I left town to visit a cousin. She was supportive, but couldn’t help financially. On top of that, I began to hear voices. I imagined angels coming to me in dreams.

I kept telling myself: Breathe.

My boyfriend took me back, but he seemed to keep me at a distance. Despite the fact that we had little money (he was starting out as a carpenter), we began to make plans.

Then we got a tax notice and because of where we lived and where our family came from we had to schedule a trip RIGHT before the birth.

On top of that, there was a political campaign being waged against the opposition. Every day there were threats. People had to watch their back. There were reports of babies “disappearing.” Of course this freaked me out too.

We had no car for the trip, so it was either walk or hitch a ride with others. Caravans from our town were going, but one look at me and they knew I would just slow them down. If I could have gotten out of it I would have in a heartbeat. I was HUGE.

And scared. Besides my cousin, there was no one to help out. Sometimes I daydreamed about the summer before, before all this happened, when I was just a kid. In many ways I still was.


On the road I thought about all the things that could go wrong. My feet ached. The baby was moving, doing flip flops. I hated having to stop to pee or rest. Finally I told my boyfriend to go on without me. He looked up at the darkening sky. We’ll do this together, he said, offering me a drink from his canteen.

As night fell hard—we were still miles from town—we limped along. The baby within me was restless. I had this feeling. We need to find a hostel. If only we weren’t so poor. If only we could have afforded better, a room to ourselves, a bed with clean, crisp sheets, a view perhaps of the plaza.

But I pushed this notion aside. There had been nights during the trip that we’d arrived late. Always, though, something could be found. This time our luck ran out.

We were so tired and hungry. I just wanted to stop. We found shelter out of the wind and cold. My boyfriend wanted to go for food, but I told him there wasn’t time. I gripped his arm. Panic filled his face.

He pulled a few clothes from our packs. I’ve never done this before, he said. And I told him, That makes two of us. Beneath the icicle stars bearing down on us, I gave birth.


Cattle were mooing, dogs far off set up a ruckus, horses neighed. To say where I delivered was unsanitary is an understatement. Whatever. I was so relieved. Happy. Overjoyed. Nothing else mattered. I brought the baby to my breast.

We have guests. I looked up. My boyfriend shyly greeted a couple of guys dressed in dirty clothes and smelling of wet wool. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this, but their faces were so eager I let them have a peek.

Before the night was out we had more visitors who came with gifts. Expensive perfumes, rare spices, gold! I laughed to myself, What would a baby need with all this stuff? Still, I thanked them.

You have to leave here right away, they warned. The governor is looking for you.

Jeez, exclaimed my boyfriend, can’t we catch a break. Nothing ever seems to go our way. I had to remind him—


Without fully recovering we took off, heading south. We had the gold, spices, and perfume and were able to barter our way into another country.

We lived in exile, going back and forth for awhile until things got better and we felt somewhat safe.

I wish I could report that life has been easy. Instead there have been disappointments, losses, and times when we felt overwhelmed.

Still, I know this.



Jane Hertenstein
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